Coronavirus: Vehicle sales putter along during circuit breaker

1,646 new vehicles were registered last month - down from an average of 7,200 a month in the first quarter. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - People were still buying and selling vehicles during the circuit breaker period, which started on April 7, although transactions were far fewer than during normal times.

According to the latest statistics from the Land Transport Authority (LTA), 1,646 new vehicles were registered last month - down from an average of 7,200 a month in the first quarter.

The bulk of registrations were for cars (41 per cent) and motorcycles (36 per cent).

Among the cars, Toyota (88 units), Honda (157) and Mercedes-Benz (198) made up two-thirds.

Used vehicles also changed hands in April.

In total, 3,075 second-hand cars were bought and sold last month - down from a monthly average of 7,000 in the first quarter.

Toyota, Honda and Mercedes-Benz cars made up just over half of these transactions.

Motor traders said most of the new registrations were done during the first week of April, before the circuit breaker kicked in.

For those done after April 7, some were with certificates of entitlement (COEs) that dealers secured before the lockdown.

COE tenders for April and May are suspended.

The sale of vehicles is considered to be non-essential, even if LTA allows registrations and ownership transfers to take place virtually.

According to industry players, most of the sales were done by parallel importers and used-car dealers.

A senior manager of a Japanese distributor said: "If you cross-reference to the average OMV (open market value) to see what are the models registered, you can tell most were not from authorised dealer."

Indeed, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota are the top three brands sold by parallel importers.

Another manager said used-car sales continued during the circuit breaker.

The Straits Times reported last week that some sellers provided contactless deliveries, such as towing cars to customers' homes.

Asked to comment on the motor transactions, a Ministry of Trade & Industry spokesman said: "Motor dealers are not allowed to open their shopfront and conduct test-drives.

"However, they can continue to sell their vehicles online and fulfil the orders through delivery during the circuit breaker period."

Meanwhile, industry watchers are expecting COE bidding to resume in June.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.